Things that caught my eye this week

As I struggle to wake up this morning after a most exhausting penultimate week of the term, I thought I’d share a couple of articles that appeared in the Guardian this week.

The first outlined how much time teachers in England and Wales spend on their various work tasks. As it turns out just one third of their working time is spent in front of children.

Teachers in England spend only a third of their working week instructing pupils face to face, despite working longer hours than their counterparts in other European countries, according to the widest survey of teaching carried out to date.

If you extrapolate that out to, say, my working day. I spend four and a half hours in front of my class – that makes 22.5 “in-front-of-class” hours, so I would be working over 60 hours a week. It certainly felt like it this week with reports!

While only around one in three teachers said they felt the value of teaching was appreciated by society, that figure was well above many other countries, such as France, Sweden and Spain, where fewer than 10% felt that it was valued. More than four out of five teachers in England said they were satisfied with their job, while only 8% said they regretted becoming a teacher.

If we were to carry out a similar survey here in New Zealand I think the figures would be a bit higher that in England, but over time they would be falling. After all, if we have learnt anything from all those National Party actual conflicts of interest this year, perception is everything.

The other story that caught my eye was an article profiling the inspection of schools by Ofsted resulting in headteachers being forced out following a less than satisfactory review.

…is one of many headteachers to have lost their jobs, or been forced out quietly, in Kent. More than 20 primary and secondary headteachers in the county have been removed from their jobs in the past two years and either suspended or put on “gardening leave” while their futures are decided following Ofsted inspections. It is believed, though not confirmed by any official statistics, that up to 40 others may have been encouraged to resign quietly.

With the Investing in Educational Success (IES) plan high on the government’s reelection agenda, I thought this struck very close to our educational bone here in New Zealand. Having devolved school governance to the community with Tomorrow’s Schools back in the late 80s, our current neoliberal overlords are wanting to wrestle that control back through a massive reorganisation of the structure of school management in this country.

Change principals, expert teachers, lead teachers or whatever they will be eventually called because the media & parents have turned those monikers toxic as they did with the term “charter school,” will be used by the government to implement the current policy direction. You will only be able to apply for one of these jobs if your national standards achievement data is going in the right direction. Don’t even bother if it ain’t.

But I digress. The phenomenon of principals being forced out in Kent will be replicated here if the IES is allowed to eventuate. “Experts” or “Leaders” will be measured based on the achievement data of their school. Thusly, schools will be deemed to be “failing” if their achievement data doesn’t move or, God forbid, goes “backwards.” We will see more principals on “gardening leave” as ERO orders them out of school and parachutes in hand-crafted managers to mould the school to the liking of the minister.

We will be managed from above and devolved school governance will be a thing of the past.

When voters parents realise this I don’t think National will do very well with the soft centre-ground of woman voters who quite like John Key. If they see their children’s education under threat, that spells doom for any elected government.

It’s our job as campaigners of free public education for all to get that message out there to the parents of New Zealand. Then perhaps, just perhaps, there will be a change in government in a few months and we can assign the John Key led debacle to the annals of history as we have done with Muldoon and Jenny Shipley.

Mr B.

Sources: 

Teachers spend less than half their working week in the classroom: Guardian – 25 June, 2014

The headteachers paying the price for failure: Guardian – 24 June, 2014

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